Oral Health Group

Humour: Gender-Specific Practice

September 1, 2003
by Robert E. Horseman, DDS

From blacksmith to barber to cosmetic imaging specialists, dentists have admirably held to the goal of pursuing excellence in their profession. Early on, many general practitioners, realizing that there was just too much to know about human dentition and the medical ramifications thereof, wisely restricted their practices to specialized areas. This allowed them to know more and more about less and less and drive a better make of car.

Prosthodontists were able to eliminate screaming intractable children from their practices, orthodontists willingly eschewed those unmanageable lower denture cases, and oral surgeons and endodontists obliged by absorbing some of the antipathy towards dentists in general.


What is difficult to fathom in this era of specialization is why there never evolved a gender-specific specialty. Except for obstetrics, the health care field has been sexually nondiscriminatory. Any dentist who has been in practice for more than a few years has figured out that the stress factor from treating men as opposed to women is practically nonexistent. The reasons for this are manifold:

After a daily five-minute shaving ritual, most men accept what they see in the mirror as being as good as it’s going to get. Gives himself a stern, tough-guy look and that’s it. That’s why you never hear a man ask how he looks. You think Bela Lugosi ever thought about having those cuspids fixed or brightening his smile?

Men, according to the Macho Code of Stoicism, are inclined to disregard dental problems until forced by extreme pain or spousal persistence to seek treatment. Having exhausted the relief possibilities of aspirin and bourbon lavages, he is not apt to be picky about treatment modalities. Function vs. esthetics offers no argument.

Choosing shades is simplified. He is not liable to waffle endlessly between A1 and C4 shades, believing both to be well within his tolerance levels.

Men with full beards make post-op cleanup much easier. A good wring-out is usually sufficient.

One or more missing upper front teeth is not considered a compelling reason to go into hiding the rest of his life. Nor is replacement a top priority.

Treatment options are based primarily on what is fastest.

The same code of stoicism that kept him from your office in the first place will be in effect upon delivery of a new full or partial denture. A man will ignore a major sore spot that would send a woman to the ER. He discovers it will heal itself if he keeps the prosthesis in his sock drawer.

To a man, there is no such thing as too much denture adhesive.

You never have to give him Kleenex when he is seated, he won’t know what to do with it.

Because his self-image was pretty well solidified and self-approved by the age of 12, he is not concerned that you might spoil it. The headrest is not going to wreak havoc on a $100 hairdo and if his hair (if any) is messed up during treatment, he won’t know or care.

You never have to say to him, “You have a lovely smile.” Or, “I love your shoes!” He won’t mind if you don’t ask where he got his wallet and fail to comment on how nicely it goes with his belt or neglect to admire how both complement his nails.

You and his urologist vie for top consideration when the annual examinations come due. “I got your six months recall card, that’s why I’m here.” You could grow old waiting to hear this statement.

If a man ever mentions pain, it will be in words more specific than “niggling” or “twingy.”

Taking the above facts into consideration, it is not hard to understand why limiting your practice to males might be the way to go stress-wise unless, of course, you have to make a living.

Before you make that final decision to specialize in maleodontia, favoring guys whose expectations and demands are less exasperating than women’s, you might want to recall these facts:

You seldom encounter a woman whose cheeks are covered with stubble and have the resiliency of Masonite. A man is as old as he looks before shaving; a woman is as old as she looks after washing her face. This is not your fault.

Women who smoke pipes are few and far between.

A lower lip that can push up with a hundred foot/pounds of pressure more than you can push down is a rarity in women.

As a rule, hirsute nasal openings are not a problem. The same is true of wildly exuberant mustaches that extend well below the vermilion border.

Generally speaking, women smell better and frequently present themselves as if going out in public obliged them to spruce up a bit.

If these gender ramifications haven’t helped you to sort out the possible benefits of an all-male practice, you might remember that in all the recorded history of the profession, no man has ever shown up at the front desk with a plate of homemade cookies.

Reprinted with permission, California Dental Journal, Vol. 31, No. 1. January, 2003.

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